How to Help Your Child Overcome Their Fear of the Dark

The active imagination of a child can often confuse fantasy with reality, and for many kids those imaginations run wild at night, often manifesting any anxieties or unknowns as a fear of being alone in the dark. This can be disruptive to healthy sleeping patterns, erode self confidence, and cause a great deal of stress for parents and children.

A fear of the dark is quite common amongst young children, and there are lots of simple steps you can take to help your child overcome these worries and deal with their fears.

Children Fearing the Dark

Be Sensitive and Understanding

When your child comes to you with their fears, whether it’s in the dead of night or a daytime discussion, it’s important to show sympathy and be understanding of his/her problem. Dismissing or even ridiculing these fears can be an easy mistake to make, especially if you’re trying to deal with the problem at night while tired and irritable.

Try not to get frustrated with your child, but rather address these feelings with sensitivity and understand that, to your child, these fears are real. A negative reaction can increase anxiety and potentially exacerbate the problem.

Communicate and Reassure

Calmly discuss these fears with your child. Ask him/her what it is they are afraid of and ask what your child thinks might make him/her feel better, safer or less afraid. Make suggestions to your child about how you think he/she might overcome these fears, like turning the light on, leaving the door open or taking a special toy to bed.

Let your child know that you understand how he/she feels, that you understand what it is like to be scared and that you can see that he/she is afraid, so as not to dismiss or belittle their feelings. Then reassure your child that they are safe from harm and address their specific fears; for example, if your child is afraid of monsters, explain that they do not exist and cannot harm children, or if it’s intruders that scares him/her, show them the safety precautions in your home, like locks and security screens.

Provide a Safe and Comfortable Environment

Make sure your child’s bedroom is somewhere they can feel safe and comfortable, even during the night when he/she might wake up feeling scared. You might choose to provide a night light that stays on throughout the night, or a lamp next to the kids’ bunk beds that your child can switch on when he/she is afraid. A favourite toy or comforter might also help. Make sure that you take on your child’s suggestions and try to provide practical measures to make your child feel safe, peaceful, and remain undisturbed during sleep.

Positive Reinforcement

You might choose to reward your child for being brave, for example, providing a small treat or a special sticker on a chart when he/she goes a whole night without getting out of bed to wake you. Do not punish your child for his/her feelings, or for coming to you with these fears, as this can be detrimental to his/her confidence and increase anxiety.

Preventative Steps

Try to ensure a good night’s sleep for your child by sticking to a consistent sleep schedule. Have a regular time each day for both lights-out and wake-up time, which should remain consistent even through the weekends.

Try to ensure the content they are exposed to before bed in books, on TV or on the computer, are appropriate to their age and are free of violence or scary content that might encourage anxiety and fear.

Regular exercise also helps to alleviate stress, so make sure your kids get plenty of physical activity during the day. This will also tire them out and expend their energy meaning they should sleep better at night.

Further Help

If your child’s fear continues or worsens despite taking these steps, you might choose to consult a children’s counselor. A professional can help both you and your child with coping mechanisms and preventative actions.

Whatever the fear, it’s possible to work with your child to understand and overcome these fears, meaning a better night’s sleep for the family and a strong and confident child.

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  1. Maria Iemma says:

    I do not like the dark myself and I think I have instilled this fear to my children. I am going to work on this and hopefully we will all feel better.

  2. Elle Briarson says:

    Great tips & pointers! My youngest was afraid of the dark for years, because the kids at school filled his head with stories about monsters under the bed & in the closet. Took alot of me laying with him till he fell asleep, to snap him out of it.

  3. laurie damrose says:

    I agree with all of these tips,I never really had a problem with either of my kids and the dark.

  4. Those are really great tips! For most kids, their anxiety level goes up as soon as the lights are out and their fear of the dark is very real.

  5. md kennedy says:

    When I was little I wasn’t afraid of the dark, I was agraid of what was under the bed. I had to leap from at least 2 feet away from the bed to get into it lest something grab me from under. Not sure where this fear came from, but it plagued me to some extent even through high school! I never told my parents but I’m sure if they did they would have helped me with some of the tips you’ve listed.

  6. this is a very helpful tips on how to help our child overcome their fear in the dark. However, in my case, I just tell my daughter that she should never fear in the dark because I am with her and God is with her too. 🙂

  7. lisa says:

    Those are all good tips. Luckily my kids are all grown. It’s a problem most children have and it’s important to be patient with them.

  8. Sounds like very good advice. When my daughter was little, she was always scared at night. the night light did wonders!

  9. Mitzi Fisher says:

    I so agree with all the tips. This is something just about all parents go through 🙂

  10. Lisa R says:

    I’m 48 and still afraid of the dark sometimes….Wish my mom had these tips when I was little

    sibabe64 at ptd dot net

  11. Aubrey says:

    these are very good tips

  12. Michael W Perkins says:

    Good tips, Thanks

  13. Until almost seventeen, my daughter still fear of dark. Thank for this tip, I will sent it to her.

  14. Lindsey V. says:

    Thanks for the great post!

    Best Wishes,
    Lindsey V.

  15. Stephanie Thompson says:

    My oldest Grandson has terrible nightmares so we have tried several things to help keep him from having them. The only thing that has worked it making sure he says his prayers before he goes to sleep. We haven’t tried exercise except at times when it just happens to be a active day for him but may include that as well.

  16. Donna Martin says:

    Never tease them about their fear of the dark, or talk about it with other people when she’s in the room.

  17. M.Clark says:

    Great tips, thanks! I think these tips can be applied to any issue not just fear of the dark.

  18. Nena Sinclair says:

    Great info! When my kids were little, they were always afraid of the dark and monsters! I used to fill a spray bottle with scented water and spray in under their beds and around their room and tell that would make sure any monsters would stay away and it worked!

  19. Jean Cox says:

    These are helpful tips and really put the ease of the child as the focus instead of our own 🙂

  20. Christina Strapp says:

    Great tips that I will have to give a try. We are going through this right now with my toddler.

  21. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    It is so true. All children seem to go through the fear of the dark. Thank you for sharing these great tips

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